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Eurasian Black Vulture Necropsy Protocol


Copy of previous medical history (MedARKS copies) as well as complete gross necropsy report, histopathology report, and culture results should be submitted to Veterinary Advisor as soon as available. 

Claude Lacasse, DVM

Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital

1638 Steve Irwin Way

Beerwah, Queensland 4519


Summary of this information will be developed annually by Veterinary Advisor and forwarded to SSP chair for appropriate distribution.

This protocol has been drafted to facilitate standard approach to gross pathology evaluation and sample collection for the Eurasian Black vulture.  As a general rule, these birds tend to be long-lived and necropsy opportunities are limited.  A summary by body system is provided for sample collection but is only intended to support, not direct, a thorough necropsy.  Histopathology samples should be collected into 10% buffered formalin at 1:10 (tissue:formalin).  Additional samples needed for culture or other testing as warranted by clinical history or necropsy findings should be placed in a freezer, preferably an ultralow (-80 Celsius) freezer. 

External exam

Samples recommended for histopathology: skin, uropygial gland, and podotheca. 

Body condition (keel) should be assessed closely. 

Weight should be obtained. 

Podotheca (feet) should be closely examined since many cases of pododermatitis have been found in this species (see pathology survey results by SSP Veterinary Advisor) and samples for histopathology should be obtained.


Samples recommended for histopathology: thigh muscle, sciatic nerve, and pectoral muscle. 

It is best to open all major joints if possible since many birds are geriatric and osteoarthritis has been a frequent finding in this species (see pathology survey results by SSP Veterinary Advisor).  Sampling of abnormal joint fluid or synovial tissues for culture and/or specific Mycoplasma culture should be performed if septic arthritis is suspected.  Septic arthritis has not been a frequent finding in necropsy reports of the captive population to date.

Coelomic cavity

Samples recommended for histopathology: lung, heart, trachea, syrinx, esophagus, crop, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, proventriculus, ventriculus, spleen, liver, pancreas, gall bladder, intestines (small and large, multiple sections of each), kidney, adrenal gland, gonad, vent (including bursal remnant), and air sac. 

A sterile collection of heart blood should be made and serum should be banked in ultralow freezer if available.  This will provide bank for further testing (e.g. metal assay, NSAID assay).  If this is euthanasia, please collect a 3-5ml sample of blood in heparin prior to euthanasia for CBC, chem. panel, and plasma bank.  This can then be used post-mortem to compare necropsy results with blood results (e.g. high uric acid with renal failure).  

The bird should be sexed at necropsy and, if it was sexed ante-mortem, methods of sexing should be included so that sexing techniques may be standardized. 

With the recent discovery of the effects of diclofenac on Gyps species, the frequency of renal pathology in the captive Eurasian Black vulture population raises some concerns (see pathology survey results by SSP Veterinary Advisor).  Samples of both kidneys should be frozen in a freezer or ultralow freezer and Veterinary Advisor (see address above) should be contacted. 

Head and oral cavity

Samples recommended for histopathology: eye, brain, tongue, larynx, and pharynx. 

By minimal removal of the skull, the brain should be removed and cut for histopathology.  If clinical signs were compatible with West Nile virus (WNV), brain samples should be saved frozen for testing at Cornell University or other laboratory that performs WNV immunohistochemistry.  Some cases of West Nile virus disease have been observed in the captive population (see pathology survey results by SSP Veterinary Advisor).   

In-shell death

The orientation of the chick within the shell should be assessed, as well as any signs of trauma or predation.  Necropsy should then be performed as for an adult.  Remember to include yolk sac/umbilicus and bursa.  A yolk culture is usually appropriate for all in-shell deaths. 


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